Foreign, Tech

Spies Still Love The Typewriter

We thought the typewriter had gone the way of the dodo.

But the Russian Federal Guard Service, the agency tasked with protecting Russia’s highest-ranking officials, has recently put in an order for 20 Triumph-Adler typewriters.

In the wake of WikiLeaks, the Russians felt a need for more paper documents. Each typewritten document creates a unique “fingerprint,” allowing it to be traced to its typewriter.

In “A Case of Identity,” Sherlock Holmes is able to track down the identity of a suspect, by studying the sheer peculiarities of a typewritten letter.

Holmes tells James Windibank:

It is a curious thing that a typewriter has really quite as much individuality as a man’s handwriting. Unless they are quite new, no two of them write exactly alike. Some letters get more worn than others and some wear only on one side.

Now, you remark in this note of yours, Mr. Windibank, that in every case there is some little slurring over of the ‘e,’ and a slight defect in the tail of the ‘r.’ There are fourteen other characteristics, but those are the more obvious.

He goes on to explain that he wrote to the man himself, at his business address, asking him if he’d meet him.

As I expected, his reply was typewritten and revealed the same trivial, but characteristic defects. The same post brought me a letter from Westhouse & Marbank, of Fenchurch Street, to say that the description tallied in every respect with that of their employé, James Windibank.



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